Cigarettes made up one-third of accidental ingestion cases involving infants and very young children at home in the year ended last March, accounting for the largest number for 30 years in a row, a government survey showed Sunday.
The results were shown in the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s survey on health damage involving household articles and others reported by hospitals across the country during the year to March 2009.
An official at the Japan Poison Information Center said the many cases involving cigarettes are characteristic of Japanese living style — people live mostly on tatami mat-covered floors and adults often put cigarettes on floors and low tables within the reach of young children.
Although cigarettes are on the decrease in the ratio of the total cases as more people refrain from smoking, a ministry official called on parents to pay attention to prevent young children from swallowing them by accident.
The survey was compiled from a total of 477 such accidents reported by seven hospitals. The number of cases involving cigarettes totaled 159, accounting for 33.3 percent of the total, the same level as the previous year’s 33.6 percent.
By age, most of the children were 6 months to 18 months old, accounting for 139 of the total.
Cigarettes accounted for about 50 percent of the total in the 1990s and the ratio has fallen to the lower half of the 30 percent level in recent years.
In the survey, medicines came in second highest at 18.0 percent of the total, followed by toys at 7.8 percent and plastic products at 5.2 percent.
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